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Asia shares end lower in subdued trade; Ukraine fears weigh

Asian shares fell on Monday with the absence of a lead from Wall Street last week due to the Easter holidays. Trading volumes were thin with Australian, New Zealand and Hong Kong markets shut for the long weekend.

Geopolitical risk was in focus following a gun attack in the eastern part of Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists near the city of Slaviansk said three of their men were killed, reportedly by an ultra-nationalist Ukrainian group.

"With the week kicking off with Easter Monday, markets may not be in full-swing yet. But clearly geo-political risks remain on the radar, and this will continue to factor into U.S. treasury yields, risk appetite and the U.S. dollar amongst others," said analysts at Mizuho Bank in a note.

Read MoreAsia on Japan, China data watch this week

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Nikkei flat

Japan's benchmark Nikkei erased early gains to end the session in negative territory, snapping a three-day winning streak. Earlier in the session, the index rose to a fresh two-week high at 14,649 points.

A weaker currency overshadowed disappointing March trade data, which showed the economy recorded a record trade deficit of 13.748 trillion yen for the fiscal year of 2013-14, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The yen fell to a two-week low against the dollar at 102.70, which boosted exporters across the board. Mitsubishi Motors jumped over 2 percent and Panasonic climbed 1 percent.

Financials rallied on reports in the Nikkei that Japan's ruling political party is considering increasing the ceiling on interest rates charged to borrowers. Shinsei Bank led gains by over 4 percent.

Shanghai drops 1.5%

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite ended at its lowest levels since April 4, extending losses into a third session, ahead of Wednesday's HSBC flash purchasing manager's index (PMI). Analysts say the index could remain in contraction territory below the 50 level.

Gold miners declined on reports that Beijing will allow gold imports through its capital city of Beijing. Shandong Gold and Zhongjin Gold fell over 1 percent each.

Energy producers were in the spotlight after Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday that construction will begin on a series of major energy projects, including nuclear and hydropower plants, in a bid to help bolster the slowing economy.

Oil giant Sinopec and Petrochina lost 2 and 0.6 percent, respectively, while coal producers Yanzhou Coal and Datong Coal skidded over 2 percent each.

Kospi slips 0.2%

South Korean shares fell below the 2,000 level, retreating further from a 2014 high of 2,009 points hit earlier this month.

Losses amid blue-chips weighed on the benchmark index with Kia Motors down 0.8 percent and steelmaker Posco more than 2 percent lower.

Contact Asia

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